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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Interchangeable Cores

Interchangeable core locks, like high-security locks, have their uses. But there are also many instances where they should not be used. They are great for large offices, schools, dormitories, and locations where there are several levels of masterkeying. Their key advantage is that they are interchangeable. They do offer some degree of key control. If you are not frequently changing locks, they are probably not appropriate. Where they are used, somebody should be responsible for the locks. Interchangeable cores can be identified by their figure-8 appearance, like the Arrow brand interchangeable core shown below:

All the advantages of the interchangeable core disappear if you do not have a key known as a control, or core key. The control key does not actually operate the lock, but is necessary to remove or service the cores. Without it, the lock may need to be destroyed to remove the core. We've received numerous calls from small businesses wanting locks serviced or rekeyed. They will have interchangeable core locks, but no control key. If you are in this situation, you might want to consider replacing the locks now, rather than waiting for an emergency situation to occur.

"Do Not Duplicate" Keys

We've received several calls recently from folks inquiring about having copies made of keys marked "Do Not Duplicate". In general, unless we have installed or serviced the lock, we will not make copies of keys that are so marked. We respect the apparent intent to control the number of duplicate keys.

That being said, there are places that will duplicate such keys, apparently without any respect for the original intent. With few exceptions (some government and post office keys), there is nothing illegal about duplicating a key marked "Do Not Duplicate".

If you want to be certain that no unauthorized duplicates are made of a key, that is when you need to turn to what are generally referred to as "high security" locks. That generally means that the manufacturer has a restricted, patented keyway. Some of these locks will only be sold to certain locksmiths, or a single locksmith, in a geographical area. Bear in mind that, if you invest in these types of locks, you are probably limiting yourself to that same locksmith for all future service on those locks. We want our customers to come back because they want to, not because they have no choice.

Another recent call we received was from a business that had invested in a high-security lock just five years ago, but the original locksmith would no longer service the lock - its particular patent had run out, and they would no longer be serviced. Replacement was the only option. High-security locks have their place, but they are not for everybody. Even if key duplication is limited, keys might be lost, stolen, misplaced, or not returned. Expect the servicing of high-security locks to be considerably more than standard locks. Be sure to understand the pros and cons before investing in high-security locks.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Simplex Locks Class Action Lawsuit

Have a lock that looks like this? It may be the target of a class action lawsuit alleging that it can be easily bypassed. The manufacturer, Kaba-Ilco, made a design change in December 2010 that may or may not be related to the lawsuit, but may have made the lock more difficult to bypass.

This is an extremely popular mechanical code-operated lock. Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, there does appear to be a serious security concern. It may be bypassed with no damage, leaving no evidence that a bypass has occurred. The biggest problem may be that the bypass can be performed with limited knowledge and no particular skill.

If you have one of these locks (only the 5000 series is excluded from the lawsuit), your security may be at risk, especially if the lock is located on an exterior door.